Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice

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Mickey Vernon


Date and Place of Birth: April 22, 1918 Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania

Baseball Experience: Major League
First Base
Military Unit:
US Navy

Area Served: Pacific Theater of Operations

James B “Mickey” Vernon was born on April 22, 1918 in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania. He attended Villanova University before signing with Easton of the Eastern Shore League in 1937. The 6-foot-2, left-handed hitting first baseman batted .287 his rookie year with 10 home runs in 87 games.

He played for Greenville of the South Atlantic League in 1938 and batted .328, moving up to Springfield of the Class A Eastern League in 1939. Batting .343 by July of that year, Vernon was called up by the Senators and made his major league debut on July 8. Vernon played 76 games for the Senators in 1939 and batted .257. He played for Jersey City of the International League in 1940, and joined the Senators as their starting first baseman in 1941.

On October 16, 1943, Vernon was inducted into the Navy at Sampson Naval Training Station in New York. He was at Norfolk Naval Air Station, Virginia, in 1944 where he regularly played ball. Vernon arrived in Hawaii in October 1944. On the voyage to Honolulu, he was sick and so weak he couldn't shave. So he let his beard grow and his teammates took to calling him "Abe". Vernon took part in the Navy’s Western Pacific Tour, playing for the Fifth Fleet team at islands including Kwajalein, Saipan and Guam. Following the tour, he was sent to Ulithi Atoll, where he refereed basketball and umpired softball games.

Vernon was discharged from service on October 4, 1945, and returned to the game in style the following season. He led all American League batters with a .353 average and made the first of seven all-star selections. Vernon played in the major leagues until 1960 with the Senators, Indians, Red Sox, Braves and Pirates. He was the American League batting champion for the second time in 1953 when, aged 35, he hit .337.

In 1961, one year after he retired as a player, Vernon was given the job of managing the expansion Senators in their first year of existence. He also served as a coach for the Pirates, Cardinals and Yankees, managed at Triple-A and Double-A levels in the minor leagues, and served as a batting instructor in the Yankees' farm system before retiring from baseball.

On September 20, 2003, Vernon’s hometown of Marcus Hook honored their hero by unveiling a life-size statue of him at renamed Mickey Vernon Park.

Created March 5, 2008.


Copyright © 2008 Gary Bedingfield (Baseball in Wartime). All Rights Reserved.